How to use a photo feed log to get better customer results


Here is an unpopular opinion …

Macro-style food logging and tracking (think: MyFitnessPal) is NOT the best way to train your clients in nutrition.

There, I said it. Now listen to me …

I have been one nutrition coach for over 10 years and I have worked with over 1,000 clients. I now use my knowledge and skills to help gym owners and coaches grow and systematize their own businesses, so I can see how large-scale training methods work.

Over the last decade I have tried many different styles of nutritional coaching: totally macro based training with food tracking and totally habit based, no macros.

And if I told you when I stopped making clients count macros, experienced:

  • Better results
  • Greater compliance
  • A happier journey
  • Less stress
  • Better food intuition
  • A longer coach / client relationship

Well, that’s exactly what happened.

Don’t be fooled – I don’t hate macros. They definitely have their place.

(Related: The complete guide on the use and training of macros.)

But for 99% of customers, I just think there’s a better way.

So what is it?

Finished 150,000 certified health and fitness professionals

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Photos, people. Pictures.

I have clients who keep track of what they eat by taking a picture of the food.

It is simple, easy and effective and therefore you get high compliance.

But the best part? It provides much more information and training opportunities than conventional tracking.

I know what some of you say:

“Calories or macros cannot be determined with photos alone.”

Do not care.

When it comes to food, there are more important details to address than what customers eat.

And the photos help you see what macro tracking can’t do: the full image.

To get the most out of it, though, you’ll need to know what to look for.

I have a method for this.

I call this method 5 Ws.

Who, when, where, why and what.

Let me explain them each, along with the coaching opportunities they present.

(And for more nutrition, health, and training tips, sign up for PN’s FREE PNT weekly newsletter, The smartest coach in the room.)

1. Who do they eat with?

Whoever eats with someone can affect the food decisions they make, as well as the amount of food they consume.

Have you ever had a friend eat super healthy? Have you ever found yourself making healthier decisions while eating with that person?

The reverse is also true. It’s more tempting to go wild on a Friday night when your friend, partner or co-worker is also pleased.

Sometimes, just helping your client become aware that they tend to overeat around a certain person can change the game. (And no, I’m not suggesting they end the relationship.)

2. When do they eat?

Did your client (unintentionally) wait until 3pm for lunch because he was busy or didn’t plan properly?

Here is an example of when this type of information can be very helpful. If you find a lost food pattern, you can see why it’s happening and:

  • option 1: Help your client build more structure a day to prevent food shortages
  • Option 2: Think of “if then” scenarios for when it happens. Example: “IF I miss my lunch, then I will get a meal / snack XYZ”

3. On mengen?

You can learn a lot by looking at your customer’s food environment.

Are they sitting at their desk in front of the keyboard, working during lunch? They may not be taking the time to chew food thoroughly, which could lead to overeating.

Here you could work eating up to 80 percent as a next step.

(Learn more: How to eat up to 80% filling)

Are they sitting on the couch watching TV? They may be repressing themselves without any sense, another reason why people overeat.

In this case, you can focus on learning to eat slowly.

(See: The 30-day slow food challenge.)

Do they eat at the table? This is great! They seem to set aside time to eat and here they develop great habits. (Can bright spots be said?)

Does your food seem to come from your own kitchen or is it in takeaway containers? If your customer registers chicken, broccoli, and sweet potato in a traditional food tracking log, you don’t know if it’s homemade or if it’s picked up at a quick, casual local restaurant, potentially laden with hidden oils and lots of sodium.

This could be an opportunity to educate them on different food preparation techniques and explain why a homemade meal might be a better choice for their goals.

4. Why do they eat?

As coaches, we would really benefit from asking this question more often.

Do people always eat out of hunger? Hardly.

People eat for a lot of reasons and hunger is often not the engine. For example, people often eat because they are happy, sad, stressed, tired, thirsty, or bored, or it may be due to environment, habit, culture, or tradition.

If you find that it is from a customer eat out of stress, you could help them find ways to better manage stress, such as meditation and exercise.

Or maybe they are a social butterfly and, for them, food is part of the social experience.

You can collaborate with your client on ways to make the best decisions possible while celebrating with your friends and family, instead of feeling that they need to stay home.

Ignoring the many reasons the customer eats can make them feel that something is wrong. Instead, help them develop the tools to lean on the WHY in a positive way.

5. What do they eat?

For me, this is the least important question. Because in my opinion, there isn’t a great coaching opportunity here.

If your customer does not make good choices, it is very likely that one of the other 5 W is at stake.

How does it work, exactly?

Here are some practical tips for implementing this strategy.

Use photo logging when incorporating clients. During the first two weeks of working together, I have clients who take daily photos of their meals.

Then, they hang the photos in folders organized by meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks, for example.

After the first two weeks, I let the client choose if they want to continue taking photos.

Look for patterns. You may notice that your customer often skips breakfast or snacks while hungry throughout the day.

These patterns provide a great starting point for your workout.

(You can encourage your client to look for patterns while eating using resources like Precision Nutrition Journal of Eating Behaviors i Diary How the food feels.)

Make it collaborative. I don’t usually do official “reviews” of customer photo logs.

You never want your customer to feel qualified.

Instead, try asking questions about your photos instead of making statements about what you see.

For example, you may be wondering: How did this breakfast work for you? How did you feel a few hours later?

Let your customer suggest the following steps. Once you’ve worked together to identify some areas for improvement, ask your client what they think they could change with confidence.

This is where they decide a new action to practice.

My goal is not to convince you to abandon macros.

(Especially if this approach works very well for you.)

Rather, I want to share an alternative tool that deeply affects the way I train.

Try it.

I know it can be scary, but in my experience with over a thousand people, you will get better results and in the end much happier, more balanced customers.

If you are a coach or want to be …

Learning to train clients, patients, friends or family through healthy eating and lifestyle changes, in a way that is personalized to their body, preferences and circumstances, is both an art and a science.

If you want to learn more about both, consider this Precision nutrition level 1 certification.

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